What to Expect When We Go Back to the Office

26 may. 2021 4 Consumo de tiempo Read

What to Expect When We Go Back to the Office

As Canadians prepare to return to workplaces later this year, employees have no shortage of questions and concerns regarding exactly what the post-pandemic workplace will look like.

For some insight, we spoke to CBRE’s People team and local office management to find out what we might expect when we walk through our office doors for the first time in nearly two years.  

Varying reactions

It’s important to realize that people will be in different places as they begin to return to the office.

“Some will be energized about getting back; others might be exhausted by the past year or still have competing family responsibilities,” notes CBRE Canada Sales Manager Amanda Fediuc. “So the challenge for employers is figuring out where everyone is at and how we return to the office in a way that works for everyone. It would be so nice to sprinkle corporate fairy dust and boom — everyone’s back, happy and effective, but it’s a tough situation that requires a lot of listening and flexibility.”


Pretty much everybody has experienced some form of burnout over the past year, and with burnout comes threat of turnover, notes Martha McIver, CBRE’s Head of People. “Organizations that don’t address these issues among their employees will run the risk of losing the talent they worked so hard to attract. This isn’t just a big shift for employees coming back to the office, it’s also a pivotal moment for businesses managing the transition.”

Clear communication

Returning to the office will have varying appeal and, for some, the renewed commute and change of plans could be jarring.

It is essential that managers keep close tabs on their team to make sure they’re OK, while also establishing clear expectations around their contributions while at the office. “Managers are going to have to do a lot more in terms of one-on-one discussions with employees to talk about expectations for meeting business goals as we emerge from the pandemic,” says McIver.

“That could be saying to their employee, ‘I know you’ve got a lot to balance right now, but my goal is in X number of months I would like things to look like Y.’ And it will be important to be clear with those employees. Or you can say, ‘I’d like to review the situation in a few months and see what’s working well or not.’”

What to Expect When We Go Back to the Office

Safety concerns

Returning to the office doesn’t mean everybody will be confident about their health and safety. “There is still a residual anxiety people will have coming out of the pandemic,” says Fediuc. “Even if your company has the best hygiene plan and safety guidelines in place, initially it will be tough. People may be hesitant.”

Employees should feel free to discuss those issues with their employer, and employers must appreciate that there will be wide variation in individual safety concerns. “It will come down to that person’s tolerance of risk, what’s happening with their family, where they’re located geographically speaking,” McIver says.

While company leaders might be tempted to enforce a mandatory, full-time return to the office, a lack of flexibility could end up driving employees away. “If you don’t have that discussion with your employees you won’t know whether they are open to coming back to the office full-time or not,” McIver says. “And if employees aren’t feeling safe or heard they’re going to vote with their feet.”


Flexible future

Some employers will resist, but the future work week for most organizations will involve some mix of remote and office-based days.

While McIver acknowledges that it’s best practice for a new employee to be at the office as much as possible, in order to absorb the company’s culture, values and work ethic, “once you’ve gotten to know people and you’re there occasionally, I think you can accomplish quite a lot remotely.”

Again, clear expectations at the hiring stage will be a must when it comes to the structure of the work week. “If an employer has an offer out, they’ll need to emphasize that the job is working remotely for now and also state what they can expect in the months ahead.”

Companies that refuse to budge on offering some mix of remote working could end up losing good candidates. “People have been so used to the flexibility,” says McIver, “they might feel they’re giving up too much to go back to a traditional office job.”

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